Southern Theatre

21 E. Main Street,
Columbus, OH 43215

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Southern Stage

The great Southern Theatre is the only remaining 19th Century theatre in Columbus. It opened on September 21, 1896 after close to three years of planning and construction (the adjoining Southern Hotel opened the following summer). It boasts the architectural influence of 19th Century geniuses Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. It was constructed of “fireproof” brick, tile, iron, concrete and steel (since most other theaters in the downtown had been previously destroyed by fire). Being a very modern structure, it was one of the first commercial buildings in Columbus to have electricity (which it produced itself).

In the early-1910’s, a section of the upper balcony was removed to install a projection booth. It was used as a live performance and movie theater until 1931 when it became a full-time movie house. It stayed open until 1979 when years of neglect forced its closing.

The movement to restore the Ohio Theatre 30 years ago helped the Southern Theatre receive public support for its own restoration. After over a year of restoration, it reopened its doors on September 26, 1998 and now hosts a variety of performances.

Contributed by Joseph Boone, Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Patsy on May 20, 2006 at 7:08 am

Lost Memory: I plan to make a trip to Columbus this summer so will take you up on that excellent trip suggestion. I always make a point of calling ahead so I can tour the theatre as someone is usually kind enough to meet me and the hubby.

kencmcintyre on September 15, 2006 at 4:45 pm

This 1983 photo shows the entrance of the theater prior to renovation:

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 9, 2007 at 10:31 am

The Great Southern Theatre in Columbus is listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. The lessees were the Valentine Company; Lee M. Boda was Manager. Seating capacity was 1,900 and admission prices ranged from 25 cents to $1.50. There was both gas and electric illumination. The proscenium opening was 34 feet square, and the stage was 52 feet deep. The theatre was on the ground floor and there were 10 members of the house orchestra. Other roadshow theatres in Columbus in 1897 were the Grand Opera House and the High Street Theatre. There were 4 newspapers at the time and 7 hotels which catered to show people. The 1897 population of Columbus was 130,000. I visited the Southern Theatre with a THSA group in mid-2000 and it was very beautifully restored and well worth seeing.

mack on August 7, 2008 at 3:17 am

I’m pretty sure I saw “Robinson Crusoe On Mars” at this theatre during a Saturday matinee on August 22, 1964 as listed in the Columbus Dispatch. It might be one of my first movie going memories. A great movie that my two older brothers took me to via the bus to downtown. I still remember waiting on that bus after the movie in Kreskie’s (spell check) store and seeing/smelling that great pizza in their case that I couldn’t afford! If I only had a time machine… zman

Mark_L on October 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm

The current seating in the Southern is 925, according to the CAPA website.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm

how did it get reduced by half?

albabewick on January 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

If you live in or visit Columbus, this theatre boasts wonderful acoustics. I have seen various types of live performance here over the last 15 years: small-scale musicals, chamber music, full orchestras, rock music and was lucky enough to have seen the Lynn Redgrave performance in “The Importance of Being Earnest” in 2006. It is also a very beautiful theatre, perhaps the most tasteful and elegant in all of Columbus. Take someone you love to hear good music in a lovely setting!

TLSLOEWS on January 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Great history of this theatre,good to see it still open.

dallasmovietheaters on January 14, 2017 at 5:10 am

Attributed architects as Yost & Packard of Dayton

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